You went through a hysterectomy, and you gained weight. Suddenly your clothes no longer fit, your energy levels are down, and you dont like how you look in the mirror. And the frustrating thing is that this happened without any changes in your exercise or nutrition patterns.
Well, my friend, youve come to the right place. Because in this article, well cover:
What is a Hysterectomy?
If you already had a hysterectomy, I dont need to tell you what it is. But if you havent, and youre the friend/relative of someone who has (or another personal trainer), it would be helpful to know.
According to WebMD, A hysterectomy is a surgery that involves removal of the uterus. Often, it also involves the removal of neighbouring anatomical strcutures, like the cervix, ovaries and Fallopian tubes. When everything is removed (uterus, as well as the neighbouring structures), thats often called a complete hysterectomy.
When do gynecologists think that a hysterectomy makes sense? In 95% of cases, its because of:
And theres more than one way to do a hysterectomy. The surgeon may choose to remove just the uterus, and keep the ovaries, cervix, and other structures. Or the surgeon may decide to remove the ovaries as well, which is called an oophorectomy.
After Hysterectomy Side Effects
So youve had your uterus and (maybe) ovaries removed. Now what? Well, the problem that was bothering you, for which the hysterectomy was required is probably gone, but unfortunately, there are some side effects of the surgery, like:
And understand, that because a hysterectomy induces menopause, a woman will often experience the side effects of it:
As it pertains specifically to this article, the one well talk about is weight gain. But not every woman gains weight after a hysterectomy.
Do You Gain Weight After a Hysterectomy?
Since you landed on this article, Im guessing that you gained weight after yours. So the answer is yes, you do gain weight after a hysterectomy. But according to at least one study, its not much just 3 pounds. However, according to the same study, about 23% of women gain over 10 pounds.
Fortunately, not every woman gains weight after a hysterectomy. If she had a healthy lifestyle (slept well, exercised, ate right, and managed her stress properly) before a hysterectomy, shes less likely to gain weight after (although there are no guarantees).
Do You Lose Weight After a Hysterectomy?
Weight loss without deliberate effort after a hysterectomy is very unusual. Just like weight loss without deliberate effort is unusual any other time. So if youre losing weight after your hysterectomy, and youre not eating less, exercising more, or doing something specific to lose weight, it may be a cause for concern.
A very small minority of women experience diarrhea and vomiting after a hysterectomy (usually if they get it for cancerous reasons), in which case, theyre losing a lot of fluid, and weight can be lost. But its fluid, and not fat. Definitely not desirable.
In another tiny minority of cases, women just feel better, so they move around more. Maybe its not deliberate exercise, but they do more active stuff, like gardening, hiking, or just walking around, so they lose weight that way.
But outside of these 2 scenarios, its pretty unusual to lose weight after a hysterectomy without doing something specific.
Menopause After Hysterectomy
Many women wonder do I go into menopause after a hysterectomy? The answer is it depends.
Essentially, if the ovaries are removed, regardless of your age, you go into early menopause. Even if youre 25, youre now menopausal. So youre going to have the hormonal profile of someone who is menopausal as well. And no, its not quite as simple as low estrogen. Its much more complex than that. I elaborate on that in my article, Discover Your Menopause Type. Or if youd like, I strongly recommend the full book,Discover Your Menopause Type:
However, if just the uterus is removed, and the ovaries are left intact, then you dont go into menopause until the natural age when it would have happened anyway
Weight Gainafter Hysterectomy vs. Natural Menopause
In one study that did a head-to-head comparison of weight gain after natural menopause vs. after a hysterectomy, both groups gained the same amount of weight. But the speed at which they gained it differed. The group that got the hysterectomy had almost 3 times the speed of weight gain, compared to natural menopause.
Furthermore, the same study found a significant difference in the speed of weight gain between women who had a hysterectomy with ovary removal (oophorectomy) vs. those who had their ovaries preserved. Those who had their ovaries removed gained weight faster than those who had their ovaries preserved.
Although Im not aware of any research on this, Ill also add in my experience: although weight could be gained everywhere, theres an especially high amount of stomach weight gain after hysterectomy.
Why is Weight Gained After Hysterectomy?
So we know what happens, but like a 4-year-old, we want to know why? Whats the reason? Whats the mechanism behind the weight gain after a hysterectomy? For that, there are a couple of different explanations.
According to one study, women who go through hysterectomy actually have a higher weight before the surgery, than women who dont require a hysterectomy. So theyre already more predisposed to weight gain.
The most obvious explanation for the rapid weight gain following hysterectomy: changing hormones. Unlike natural menopause, when hormones change gradually from a pre-menopausal, to menopausal state, with surgery, the change is abrupt.
Why is There Specifically Stomach Weight Gain After a Hysterectomy?
A lot of women might have been pear-shaped before a hysterectomy (ie they carried their weight around their buns and thighs), but bam surgical menopause hits, and suddenly, the weight shifts towards the stomach (this, by the way happens with natural menopause, as well).
Why does this occur? As mentioned earlier, unfortunately theres no research on this, so Ill just put in my 2 cents.
Where you store your body fat is an indicator of your hormonal profile. A pear-shaped pattern is more indicative of estrogen dominance. Because during a hysterectomy, estrogen can decrease, theres less of that. However, the adrenal glands secrete more cortisol (the stress hormone), and an apple shape (weight that is more distributed towards the stomach) is more indicative of cortisol dominance.
I talk about that in greater detail in my article on where you store fat, and what it means. I talk about this also to a greater extent in my book,STOP EXERCISING! The Way You Are Doing it Now.
How to Lose Weight After a Complete Hysterectomy
I wish I could give you some secret exercise, or food or supplement that works specifically for those with a hysterectomy. Some little-known gem that will really help you. But I cant. Because as far as I know, it doesnt exist. The stuff that works for weight loss without a hysterectomy will also work with a hysterectomy (regardless of whether its a total hysterectomy, or partial you kept your ovaries). So lets break it down:
Step #1: Balance Your Hormones
With a hysterectomy, I would take extra efforts to balance your hormones. Since its not really something you can usually do yourself, Id recommend seeing a professional. Rather than reading about a hormone balancing supplement on the internet, and going through trial and error to see if it works, a professional will help you do it in a more targeted way.
Step #2: Improve Your Sleep and Manage Your Stress
A lot of health issues come from just having poor sleep. I covered this in much more detail on my articles about how bad sleep affects your hormones, what happens when you sleep, as well as how to sleep better, and supplements for sleep.
Additionally, I outline 7 stress management strategies in this article.
Step #3: Strength Training
With ovarian removal, hormone levels tend to drop. Among those hormones are estrogen and testosterone. When those 2 hormones drop, so does muscle mass, which explains why metabolism slows down. Youre eating the same amount of food, but you gain weight. That happens because your muscle greatly contributes to your metabolism.
Strength training is important for most women, but it takes on extra importance after a hysterectomy. Not just for your metabolism, but also for your bone density, blood sugar, and more.
Step #4: Cardio
Usually a combination of strength training and cardio is best. However, cardio does not increase muscle mass, and therefore doesnt speed up the metabolism. It only speed up the metabolism for the duration of time that youre actually on the machine. Strength training elevates your metabolism when youre not in the gym (if youre doing it properly).
Cardio is used for general cardio protection, energy levels and endurance.
Step #5: Proper Nutrition
Ive written hundreds of articles on that one, so I wont really go into whats proper nutrition in this article.
And although these steps are numbered, they arent sequential. They should all be done concurrently.
Is it harder to lose weight after a hysterectomy? Unfortunately, yes. Fortunately, its not impossible.
And if youre wondering whether theres a difference in how to go about losing weight after a complete/total hysterectomy vs. a partial hysterectomy, theres no research on this to my knowledge, but from my experience, theres no difference.
How to Prevent Weight Gain After a Hysterectomy
Is preventing weight gain after a hysterectomy different than losing weight after a hysterectomy? Not really. All the same ways that you use to lose weight will help you prevent weight gain as well.
But I would like to offer a way of thinking about weight loss/weight gain. Think of excess weight as a symptom. Its not the problem in and of itself. The problem is what caused the obesity in the first place no exercise, poor nutrition, poor sleep, and possibly high stress levels.
And what caused the need to have a hysterectomy in the first place? As you saw in the earlier part of this article, it was excessive bleeding, largely due to hormonal imbalances (yes, there are other reasons as well, but excessive bleeding accounts for a large number of cases of hysterectomies).
Improve the hormonal imbalances, and improve your overall health, and you could even prevent the hysterectomy in the first place (in certain cases).
So take care of your overall health, and that will help you prevent weight gain after a hysterectomy.